Ask a Professor – Feb 2017

with Heather Moulton, English and Literature Instructor.

Heather Moulton, Professor of English & Literature

Question: Since we’re writing about what we believe [for English 101], what do you believe? – Kendall Madsen, SPC

Answer: Thank you for asking, Kendall! I believe in so much, including my students, the love of my dogs, and the importance of travel. Unicorns. But my core belief is in “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.” The quotes should indicate that I didn’t come up with that little ditty on my own, and I didn’t. It is one of seven powerful principles of Unitarian Universalism that I have always attempted to live my life by long before I became a UU. Justice should truly be blind (to status as well as color); people should be treated equally and fairly; and, if all else fails, we should be kind to each other even if we don’t fully understand each other (perhaps now more than ever). It’s true: I am and always will be a tree-hugging hippy.

Question: What are some good books that you would suggest? – Marissa Gonzalez, SPC

Answer: Be still my heart! I get to talk about books? Thank you, Marissa. I have about 20 favorite books (yes, I realize that “favorite” is superlative and intended to indicate one, but my heart is big enough to have 20 favorites). Since I’m reaching my word limit, I will also limit myself here and name only three of my favorite books with a short explanation that will, hopefully, inspire some of you gentle readers to read them. 1. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). This book introduced me to magical realism, broke my heart, and changed my life. Morrison won numerous awards for it, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Morrison would eventually win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 for her many brilliant novels. Beloved, along with others, like The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Tar Baby, helped me understand, well, everything (from writing to history to American culture) on new levels. 2. Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (1995). Alexie’s novel further cemented my love of magical realism in literature. All of his works are gorgeous and haunting and beautiful, but Blues is the one that stands out for me. I felt like I was relearning or re-understanding American culture through the humorous and tragic adventures of three Spokane Indians. 3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899). This novella by Conrad is only 80 or so pages, but it helped me understand that every word a writer of literature chooses is important. I learned more about symbolism, colonialism, and the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men than I knew there was to even learn. “The horror” will forever disturb me (read it and you’ll see).